The National Ignition Facility - the U.S. largest laser system to date which aims to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain – formally opened on Friday at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
NIF's 192 giant lasers, located in a building the size of three football fields, will focus on a tiny target chamber with hydrogen creating conditions similar to those in the cores of stars and inside nuclear weapons. The project is 60 times larger than any previous system, Laboratory officials said.
The facility has three objectives, to research the physics of nuclear weapons, research into the origins of the universe and research for the future use of fusion energy.
Nuclear fusion is free of carbon emissions and has the potential to create huge amounts of energy from little amounts of fuel. The main goal for the facility in the short term is to reach self-sustaining ignition, the release of many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Energy Secretary Steven Chu were scheduled to appear at the ceremony Friday morning. The project is a national collaboration among government, industry and academia and many industrial partners throughout the nation.